Sunday, July 29, 2012

NFP vs. HBC: My Story Part II


While Natural Family Planning Awareness Week 2012 has passed, I still find myself counting my blessings that it is a part of my life. When it comes to the birth control debate, there are a few ways my life could have gone:

Scenario One

I walk into my gynecologist’s office for the first time. I am seriously intimidated at the thought of “becoming a woman” with a broken body. My cycles are irregular and it feels complicated. My mom is there with me, but she does not have irregular cycles. Her and my doctor decide that it is best to regulate them for the time being with birth control. I am being given medicine by a medical professional and I do not question it. I stay on various forms of hormonal birth control throughout high school and college under the constant reminder that I am broken and this helps to make me “normal”. When it comes time for my husband and I to begin planning our family, the hormonal birth control I have been on for nearly ten years has not only masked my heath issues, but it has increased my risk for breast cancer and brought about more fertility issues. I spent ten years of my life unaware of what I was doing.

Scenario Two

I walk into my gynecologist’s office for the first time. I am seriously intimidated at the thought of “becoming a woman” with a broken body. My cycles are irregular and it feels complicated.  My mom backs my decision to not try to control the irregular cycles at this time. She continues to back me for no reason other than my heart is telling me there is something that just doesn’t feel right about it. The encouragement she gives me through all of this helps me build confidence to seek out other options. I find a doctor and a natural family planning method that helps me to understand my body and to figure out what is causing the irregular cycles. The method helps me to monitor my own ovulation and cycles. With my doctor, I am able to isolate the cause of the irregular cycles, and when I am married and we begin to plan out our life, we know beforehand the possible problems we could face and we have a plan of action. There is no guess work involved, and I am fully informed.

***

I know that every woman has a different body, a different story, and a different outcome. I know that this is not a perfect example, but for me those scenarios accurately reflect how that one event impacted my life. Often when I engage in a discussion about birth control, I am presented with the following arguments (just to name a few):

1.        Hormonal birth control is a way for women to have it all: careers first, then a small tidy family when they are ready.

2.       Birth control helps women that have crazy cycles. Women with crazy cycles cannot use NFP because their cycles are not normal.

3.       It is just a way for them to control when they have a child: it is for those just looking to take back the control that society has taken from them.

4.       The risks are known and it is worth it.

I am not so self righteous to believe that I speak for every woman. I also am fully aware of the rather giant leap of faith it takes for single folks to remain abstinent, and married folks to remain open to life in their marriages (and all the responsibilities that come with it). Acknowledging these things, I offer the following responses to the above arguments:

1.       Having it all simply does not exist for men or women. However, we can have a fulfilling life if we choose to love others. The highest form of love is sacrificial love. Love of our children, spouses, families and friends is full of trials, triumphs and sacrifices. All of those things are worth it.

2.       I have irregular, crazy cycles and I use NFP. They have become less crazy and irregular over time with proper medical treatment that treats causes, not symptoms. I am an expert on my body.

3.       I offer Scenarios One and Two as a response to this argument. In which scenario did I have more “control”? No one’s body is exactly like mine and while I utilize NFP to understand my body, not to control it, I do so with informed consent: I am fully aware of ALL my options and I have chosen the least harmful.

4.       This argument is given confrontationally usually. I know that not every person has access to NFP at this time. I also know that there is A TON of misinformation about NFP, and that popping a pill or inserting some crazy looking devise seems easier than taking a class that teaches you about how to recognize the signs of ovulation and how to tailor an NFP method to your own body. I can’t change this argument’s mind. I do however challenge this argument to give informed consent in its truest form: really truly do the research. Really truly understand what NFP is, and the true risks and stats of birth control. Demand that women deserve comprehensive health care. Then make your choice.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

5 Things


NFP makes me think about being married. Thinking about being married makes me think about my husband. Thinking about my husband makes me think about all the things that I thought I knew about love and marriage and how the truth is very different, but in most cases, better! As we are knee deep in wedding/anniversary season, here are five things I would like to pass on to those just starting their journey together: ( In response to http://nfpandme.blogspot.com/2012/07/my-advice-for-newlyweds-linkup.html)

1.       Just because he is the cleanest guy out of all the guys he lives with, doesn’t mean he is clean by your own standards. To be fair, I am not sure there are many people that are clean by my standards, but I definitely had delusions regarding the general cleanliness of our home together that involved us happily scrubbing the bathroom surfaces together while we chatted and listened to music. It is nothing like that. We have worked out an inside/outside arrangement for the most part as I seem to despise nature as much as he hates cleaning out the fridge. Efficient, but not as fun as the delusion!

2.       His baseball card obsession does not magically disappear because you are now married and living together. He will not stop wanting to “catch a card show” on the weekends any more than you will stop wanting to go to the art museum. Life will get easier when you stop trying to leave the cards behind and instead move things around so they have a space in your home. After all, they were there first…

3.       Most people talk about money, savings goals, and raising children before getting married, but if you are crazy obsessive compulsive like someone I know (Fine. Like me.) I suggest getting it out in the open if you truly do care about which way the toilet paper should sit in the holder, using sponges on the counter, or clutter in the house. This doesn’t mean that your spouse will agree or always remember to put the toilet paper in right, but it will make you feel better to say it and admit you have a problem.

4.       The person that you had so much in common with while you were dating no longer exists. Once you live together and really begin to share your lives in marriage, you tend to not agree so much. It isn’t that either of you have changed overnight, but you are turning two separate lives into one beautiful family and sometimes this process highlights your differences more so than your commonalities. For this reason, if you come across a big ticket item like a car (or in our case, a couch) that you both like, BUY IT. Trust me. We all know our possessions do not last forever and we cannot take them with us, but life can be so much easier if you both can retire to the couch in the evenings happily versus having a giant hulking reminder in your living room of the time you went couch shopping and it got ugly.

5.       It is impossible for me to write about things I wish I knew as a newlywed without mentioning NFP. NFP is worth the time for your marriage but it can be challenging. Sometimes it is challenging because it shows you that getting pregnant will be difficult. My husband and I were married for nearly 5 years before conceiving our son. That was five years we spent in graduate school, getting to know each other and building a life, but it was also 5 years of disapproving looks from some folks that just knew we were being selfish in not having kids, five years of family and friends asking when the babies were coming, and five years of charting that showed little progress in the fertility compartment. Support each other in this. Find humor in this. Trust that there is a plan, and that your family can grow in many different ways. Sometimes all this is easier said than done, but it helps to remember that you are in it together.

Friday, July 20, 2012

NFP vs. HBC: My Story Part I


***A WORD OF CAUTION: If you do not want to read about Natural Family Planning, or things that occur when you have a female body, then this post is not for you. With Natural Family Planning Awareness Week approaching (July 22-28), I wanted to tell my story, and why my husband and I chose NFP. So here it goes…

I was the second to last girl in our small eighth grade class to start menstruating. To be honest, after the sex education class we had just completed, I was hoping it would never come. I had issues from the beginning. I remember being really embarrassed to tell my mom after the Christmas program when I realized what had happened. Then it disappeared. For months. I played lots of sports and was really active, so it wasn’t that big of a deal but I did feel a twinge of envy that other girls I knew were not surprised to see their Aunt Flow when she showed up. I was always caught off guard, or it would come at the worst times: vacations, 8th grade trips… (But she never showed during swim week in P.E., oddly enough.) My gynecologist at the time told me if I was menstruating twice a year I was good, but told me I should probably go on birth control, and made sure to ask me repeatedly if I was sexually active (I was not). High school and college was more of the same. I was cycling 2-3 times a year, which was enough to satisfy my doctor. I was not concerned until some friends and I were talking about it our freshman year of college and I mentioned I had not had a period in 6 months. They looked horrified and one of them said “You should get that checked out.” When I was home on winter break, I did. I was asked if I was sexually active, I said no. They had my mom leave the room and asked again, and I said no. They administered a pregnancy test and tried to give me a PAP test with the non-virgin tool only to discover that *GASP* I was a virgin. The doctor did not address with me the possibilities as to why I might not be cycling, nor did she offer a solution unless I was willing to take hormonal contraception. The three gynecologists I saw while in college scoffed when I said I was not sexually active, tried to make me take birth control to “regulate” my cycles, and rolled their eyes when I refused, with not a single one of them offering me a possible reason or solution. My junior year, I gained 30 pounds quickly, with no lifestyle changes: I was eating healthy and exercising regularly. This gain made my cycle issues worse, but all medical professionals would recommend to me was birth control. As far as I knew, birth control was for people that were not Catholic and people that were having sex, not me. I thought NFP was also not for me because I was not married, and what was the point of knowing what NFP was about if I was not married or having sex? I was unhappy with my body and frustrated.

When my husband asked me to marry him, one of the first calls was to a priest friend. He told me that we would meet up a few times, but in the meantime I should check into an NFP class. As we attended a Catholic college, this was extremely easy. We signed up for a Couple to Couple League SymptoThermal Method course several months before the wedding date. I was excited to learn, but a little overwhelmed as well. There were many things to remember and I was having a hard time interpreting my chart. The course was three months long, and I had not completed a cycle. A few weeks before the course ended, I brought my charts to the instructors to get some feedback. They were not sure what to tell me, but said they would do some research and recommended that I contact a gynecologist. The next class, one of the instructors pulled me aside and said the best she could figure, was that I may have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). She reiterated that she was not a physician and couldn’t tell me for sure. I walked away feeling scared. I went home to look up what PCOS was and all the scary statistics to boot. I was worried and did not know where to begin in finding a new gynecologist in the area, so I put it off a few more months. My period finally came… on my wedding night. Par for the course, right?

When we came back to school to finish the year, I put off looking for a new doctor. After all, two cycles a year is all I needed, right? Things could change now that I was sexually active, right? It doesn’t matter if my body is a barren wasteland if I am happily married, right? It just was not meant to be for us, right?  I told myself that God had other plans at first, but eventually I began to look up local doctors. On a whim, I searched for ‘STM doctor’. To my surprise there were doctors that were familiar with NFP. Doctors I could take my charts to and ask “What is wrong with me?” and they just might have an answer.

I felt really silly walking into Dr. H’s office with my chart binder. I did not know what to expect, but I was hoping for some answers and Dr. H was full of them. He told me all about PCOS and the ways to confirm the diagnosis, but that he had other suggestions versus confirming what we knew based on my charting: I was not ovulating and I had irregular cycles. He ordered some tests and I was given insulin resistant PCOS as a diagnosis. The treatment plan we decided on was truly a Godsend. In time, my weight began to drop and my cycles shortened. I was still having trouble ovulating, (not going to lie here: I had not lost ALL the weight) so we talked about our fertility options as well. He was a practicing Catholic also, and had no problem allowing me time to consult with my priest about treatments so that I knew for certain I was not participating in anything that was not Catho- approved. That treatment plan worked as well, but unfortunately, we lost our first child to a miscarriage eight weeks into the pregnancy. I was heartbroken. The little ball and heartbeat I had seen only a few weeks before on the first ultrasound was not there on the second. We were advised to wait 3 cycles and to try again. It was Christmas time and I was still just devastated. I miscarried at home, and mourned the loss of a life that was very much real.

The silver lining of that experience was that a switch was flipped. It was as though the pregnancy woke my body up. The next cycle we were pregnant again, and I knew it before any test could have told me so. I waited until I had a positive at home test. I immediately called my doctor so that he could confirm. This time we knew what to do. My son was born in November of 2009, about four years after my first visit with Dr. H. I have never been so grateful to a human being in my life. Dr. H renewed my faith in medical professionals by assuming that I was an expert on my own body; he just gave me the words I needed to describe what I had known all along.

I am blessed that my mom trusted me from the beginning. I was not forced to take birth control, and my PCOS is mild enough that I do not have many of the more difficult symptoms. I still am able to ovulate on my own, though it does not happen every cycle, and I know this because I use NFP. I chart. I know my body, and I know when things are not right, and when things are very right. I am thankful that God made me stubborn enough not to cave in to the four gynecologists that wanted me to treat symptoms instead of find the real diagnosis.

Why did I choose NFP? I chose NFP because I chose life. I did not want to live a marriage where I kept my fertility under lock and key until our method of birth control failed or until we were “ready”. ( I am not sure you can ever completely be ready for the life-changing experiences of parenthood, but people become parents all the same, I hear.)  I wanted to live a marriage where we talked about children often and that it was always a part of the discussion. Why do I continue to use NFP? I continue to use NFP because I am the expert on my own body: I know when pregnancy is a possibility long before my period is late, and although I still have irregular cycles, I am now able to better determine when my cycles will begin. I find joy in the openness NFP has afforded us in our marriage. My experience with NFP has also prepared me as a mother who has a daughter. I am comfortable talking about how my body works, and I have knowledge to pass on so that she is also an expert on how her body works.

My experience with NFP has been extremely positive. It has allowed me to learn how my body and fertility work, and it has also shown me the ways that my body is different. I hear often from women that have irregular cycles that NFP would never work for them, and I am proud to inform them that is not the case.

In conclusion I would like to add that Natural Family Planning, in all its various forms and methods, IS NOT THE RYTHYM METHOD.

Check out this page: www.iusenfp for more information!

Monday, July 16, 2012

NFP and Contraceptive Mentality


As I am sure the majority of my readers that follow Cathofeminism on Facebook know, July 22-28 is Natural Family Planning Awareness Week. In case folks were unaware, I am completely, 100% against birth control. There! I said it! It feels good to see it in print. My reasons for this are as vast as the number of methods of birth control that are on the market. (You can find the gist of these reasons in this post.) This of course means that I will for sure be participating in spreading NFP Awareness. The Facebook page will have many really great links to the wonderful happenings in the Prolife/NFP world, and there will be a few blog entries as well. I will be personally attending some NFP presentations, so I urge you to check your local community and see if you can find any presentations happening in your area as well. Here is a solid comparison of the different methods of NFP so you know what I am talking about- click here for awesome.

Now, onto the next phrase in the title: Contraceptive Mentality. What does it mean? How is it applicable to NFP? DarwinCatholic (in a four part series on the subject) describes “contraceptive mentality” as

The idea that having sex and reproducing are two activities with no necessary connection, that having sex in no way suggests a desire or willingness to have children with the person you are having sex with.”

These two words have spun my NFP world in circles the past year. I had never heard the phrase until I joined an NFP community online. As NFP has always been recommended to me by priests and I never considered that some would think it was not licit. Boy howdy, was I wrong. There are blogs upon articles upon blogs out there written by individuals calling NFP birth control and thus immoral. If you don’t mind, I won’t be providing links to those pages. Many reek of scrupulosity. NFP in short is the antithesis of a contraceptive mentality. NFP encourages ongoing, open communication between husband and wife about their family as well as any future members of said family. It is about understanding a woman’s fertility. It is always open to life. This is not to say that we do not at times become too comfortable with the status quo. This is not to say that NFP eliminates all struggles a couple may have with marriage, love and family. We all have struggles.

There is a lot of talk around what qualifies as “grave” reason to avoid pregnancy. I will again refer you to a post that is much more eloquent and thorough than I think I can be at this time. Simcha Fisher’s post “WhyDoesn’t the Church Just Make a List?” The purpose of this post is not to delve into these issues ad nauseum, it is meant to introduce these issues right off the bat: more along the lines of a disclaimer or a forward. They are certainly interesting topics to discuss though.

There is my version of a crash course on Natural Family Planning, complete with some Catholic issues to think about and discuss amongst yourselves.
Comments? Criticisms? Critiques?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thankful

Today I am thankful for my parents and their decision to raise me in the Catholic faith. I am grateful for the theology and the doctrine. I am grateful for Mass on Sundays, even though my sweet children do not allow me to focus. I am grateful to wake up everyday in amazement of God's intelligent design. I am thankful to the faithful (and at various periods in their lives, not so faithful) Doctors of the Church and the saintly men and women that have gone before me. I am inspired by their words and actions, and by the thought that they had it tough also. I am thankful for the reminder that life is a journey and it is worth living on the peaks and in the valleys.
Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Daniel Tosh

Arrived in the mail this afternoon
 I am posting this for perspective. I am not posting it to offend anyone, and I absolutely am not taking his side, but this incident does not make me want to sign a petition for his show to be canceled. Am I just too desensitized to this kind of thing? I get his sense of humor: push the joke until only one person is laughing or gets it. He is not my favorite comedian, but I do laugh at his jokes and there are an awful lot of women's groups telling me I should not feel as conflicted as I do about this. Given I should completely not be watching his show in the first place given the vulgarity he goes with, but I like laughing at the stupid things people do on the Internet.


*****
Updated: I have been thinking about this for most of the afternoon, and then I opened my mail this afternoon to find that my Murder Ink sticky notes arrived in the mail. I found these on Amazon and as I am a habitual list maker and Post-It user I had to have them. My planner pages would be funnier with to-do lists on these sticky notes.
TV really has desensitized me to fake murder in a way. I also have a little bit of a morbid sense of humor: my favorite author is Poe. I really love Nightmare Before Christmas. I would not think twice of someone joking about death, but I bristle at rape. Am I not desensitized to rape as well? I was a domestic and sexual violence advocate. I watch Law & Order: SVU reruns. When it is in a stand-up though, I bristle. So I ask: Are rape jokes off limits and murder jokes are not? I know this has much to do with an individual's taste level. My friend compared it to Sarah Silverman's stunt a few months ago. I think the Tosh comment is comparable to the Silverman post. Both are not funny and in poor taste. As I noted in the comments below, I think I am more bothered by the implication that because I do find his other non-rape realted material funny and that I am not signing a petition for his show to be yanked that I am not self respecting or that I am an idiot. Those kinds of posts go against what I am trying to do here, and I think it is a good opportunity for an examination of ourselves more than anything. I had a few really great conversations about this today. I also saw some pretty hate filled conversations.
That is enough for now. I might have more to say later!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Rant and an Apology


I stay at home with my children. My son will be three years old in November and my daughter will be one year old in September. This arrangement works for us for many reasons, and it works 99% of the time. Until I have a doctor’s appointment.

When we leave the house, it is an event! At the mere mention of going for a ride, my son runs to get his shoes, socks and hat (“Are you crazy, Mom? Leave the house without my hat?!”) while somehow simultaneously bringing me my shoes. We change diapers, put on shoes and hats (sometimes several different hats) and sometimes we change diapers again. When I am planning ahead, it takes us all of 10 minutes to leave the house, but when I am in a hurry it takes us thirty minutes, guaranteed. If we are leaving the house because I have a doctor’s appointment, double it. While the office is typically pretty fast moving, any parent will tell you getting caught unprepared at the doctor’s office is worse than embarrassing. As my youngest is not yet walking, I also have to add a stroller to the mix to avoid awkwardness.

I had to schedule a spur of the moment appointment a few weeks ago. It resulted in a diagnosis of strep throat, ear infection, dehydration… pure awfulness. I was asked to schedule a follow up before I left. The receptionist asked me what location, day, etc. and gave me a card for the time. No big deal right? It actually was not the worst visit ever. Then we went to the follow up visit a little less than a week later. Between multiple diaper and clothing changes, general fussiness and restlessness it took 45 minutes to get us all loaded in the Pilot. We arrived 3 minutes before the appointment time. I was feeling pretty awesome that I managed this despite my hearing being fuzzy still. I quickly pull out the stroller (in 90 degree Florida weather) and get the kids loaded and ready to walk in. I tried to sign in at the desk and my son had already run into the toy room when I am told by the annoyingly young and perky receptionist that our appointment is across town at the other location. I pulled out the appointment card that told me I was at the correct location and she looked at me rather blankly and said “But it is Wednesday. He’s not here Wednesdays.” I showed her the card again. Nothing. I try to collect my son from the toy room and he runs into the stroller and now both kids are crying as I try to open the room to leave. I pack them all up in the muggy, almost-going-to-rain heat and drive as hurriedly yet carefully as possible to the area of the other location. It is in west-something Square but nothing about this little catastrophe of buildings is square-like. I pull in to a parking lot and call the office to get more precise directions nearly 20 minutes now after my appointment time only to be told that my appointment has been canceled. I’ll admit, at this point I started crying. I had not been terribly pleasant through most of this ordeal, and so I whine to the woman on the phone who tries to schedule the appointment for an hour later (because of course she should KNOW by the way my children are whining that “their” patience is waning and that the proposed appointment is during their lunch time). Completely defeated, I hang up and I drive home.

Fast forward a few weeks after the trip to Kansas. I have another appointment scheduled. Completely embarrassed and humiliated from the last ordeal, I make a few calls and ensure that I will not have the kids with me for this appointment. I arrange for a sitter, and while the preparation time is still the same I feel as though I may have secured a little anonymity for myself (as though my kids are what are so memorable about my last visit, not the fact that I stormed out).  I walk in the door feeling the lightness that every stay at home mom feels when she gets to go anywhere by herself and announce to the receptionist that I had arrived. She looks up, sweetly young and perky and says “Don’t you usually have a few little ones with you?” My anonymity shattered, I reply “Yes, but I left them at home.” She gives me a wary look and I sit down.

Now they will really remember me.
Consider this my apology to any mom I may have made a snap judgement about in a doctor's waiting room before I had kids. I completely get it.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The R word and the F word


This Cathofeminism project has changed some things for me in the short amount of time it has existed. I do not see myself to be the wishy-washy sort of person. I often have very passionate opinions and beliefs on any given subject. I enjoy a good debate or conversation always, though my intolerance for others willing to engage civilly and logically in said debates and conversations is what prompted the creation of this blog. Even if I do not have the intention of ever changing my mind, I enjoy challenging my beliefs and finding the sound facts to back up what makes sense in my head. I may not be wishy-washy, but I definitely have problems communicating my thoughts on certain topics (Catholicism and feminism in particular) with certain people. This project has pushed me to not only resume studying Catholicism, but to begin to flesh out some of the details of those certain topics. One way this has manifested itself is in deeper conversations with my closest of friends. Our trip back to Kansas was great for many reasons, but it helped remind me that I actually enjoy hearing my friends talk in addition to just reading about or stalking their lives on Facebook . Novel idea, I know.

 I haven’t really delved into anything too controversial here or seen any real negative responses to my project (unlike others I have seen). The support I have received has gently pushed me to open new and different conversations with others. I offer the following examples:

A friend and I (as I have mentioned previously), have some pretty hardcore discussions with issues as they relate to feminism. We talk about others things sometimes, but we are pretty much addicted to disagreeing with each other while finding some common ground in the process. For lack of better terminology, she is my liberal friend. There is always a little bit of religion thrown into the conversation, but the R word is one I have stayed away from on numerous occasions. I have always answered questions about my own faith of course, but never pressed further. I have become very good at compartmentalizing discussions for the sake of the cause. (i.e. abortion: In the eyes of many abortion supporters, if you are against abortion you must be a religious zealot that is condemning them to hell.) I should have known better than this; I don’t think we have found an off limit topic in our years of friendship. I was a tad hesitant to open the door at first for some reason, but recently we had a pretty fantastic sequence of emails on the subject of religion. So fantastic, that I will not hesitate to do so in the future.

I have another friend that you could call my conservative friend.  She is also a practicing Catholic. We have known each other for a long time, and we know we agree on many things but feminism is not a topic that comes up often. The F word was not banned or anything, but for a long time I saw it as more of a dirty word. I was convinced you could not be a feminist and be Catholic because I sincerely thought abortion was a given (among other “unCatholic” stances) to join the ranks of feminism. She and I recently took the time to talk about some of these feminist ideals together. It started as a phone call before our trip, and our talk made me miss her even more! To under sell it a bit, I was eager to continue the conversation.

With both of these friends, I had been hesitant to bring up certain topics. Not because I was afraid I was wrong or uninformed, but more that I did not want to risk a friendship over it. There is a great deal of commentary on these subjects on the World Wide Web, and most of it is insulting. I have read so many tirades, seen people defriended over the F word and the R word and these ladies are the best of the best. It would be unimaginable to lose either of them as friends. The past few weeks showed me how solid our friendships are and how important they are in my life. We challenge each other without insulting. We do not merely pause to think about what we want to say next, but we listen to one another.  We gently point out holes in one another’s arguments. We laugh, move on and talk about other things in our life as well. I am forever thankful for their friendship and love.

This is an election year. There are plenty of issues to think about and discuss besides the R and F words. Flesh out your perspective and what is important to you, and then vote accordingly. I encourage you to participate in these types of conversations with love, respect, civility and logical thought. Inform and educate yourself, rinse, repeat…

Monday, July 2, 2012

Reframing the staying at home versus working debate


My family just returned from a visit to see family and friends in Kansas. We made it a priority to see friends this time and it was well worth the over scheduling!

While we were there this, this and this were circulating on the web. I posted some comments about them on my personal Facebook page as the very fact that we allow for moms that stay at home and moms that work to endure painful criticism just boggles my mind, but I was still working on a fresh take for my own project. The standard “Both are good!”  is nearly as tired as insulting one or the other.

I spent some time on our trip catching up with six women that I am thankful to call friends. This wasn’t a group gathering, and many of the women do not know each other. We had the opportunity to talk in a different way than you would at a party or event. This meant feeling like I was talking about the same milestones and hot topics over and over, but I spent the entire drive home thinking about these six women and our commonalities and differences. The seven of us alone are shining examples of how women make it in today’s world as married women and mothers. We are not all Catholic. We do not all identify as feminists. We are a mix of mothers that stay at home to raise our children, mothers that work and raise their children and mothers that do a combination. We are step mothers, biological mothers, and soon to be mothers. We differ on how to raise our children. We have different interests and perspectives.  Our commonalities lie in how we serve our families: with all we possess.

The obstacles that face our growing families these days are different than they have been for previous generations. With each new generation this is the case. Sure, there are some things that stay the same. The internet, Facebook and technological advancements change how we live and communicate. These things change families as well. It is not always possible for families to survive on one income. What I see happening amongst myself and my friends is an adaptation that is producing some pretty amazing results. This is about how parents parent and provide for their families, not about just mothers. Our children need us to be their primary educators. They need us to provide love, sustenance and shelter. They need our attention, love and support. They need us to be role models, they need to see us as people living our faith and they need OUR LOVE.  If all of these things are present, it does not matter what parent or if both parents work. It does not matter if a parent is at home full time. What I see among our families is seven different families (15 children) finding seven different ways to do all these things successfully. I see seven men that take the responsibility of being a father seriously. Seven men that want to do all they can to be solid fathers and provide for their families. Seven women that want to be solid mothers and provide for their families in any way they can. Seven families that provide for their families in seven different combinations that include primary and secondary childcare, extended families, jobs, careers and everything in between. When you bring life into the world, you are no longer just responsible for yourself. Providing for those little ones often involves the best kind of sacrifice: the kind that is no longer self-serving.
It is imperative that we recognize mothers AND fathers that do it all for their families. The environment we live in has changed. Men’s relationships with their children have changed, as have women’s. What difference does it make which parent brings home the money to raise a family if both are actively involved in the other non-financial needs of a family?
The meaning of life is an important question to everyone, regardless of faith (or lack thereof). I submit that the meaning of life can be found in your life’s vocation: mine is found in raising my children. If I have no other purpose in this life other than raising my children to be functioning members of society, I will do it to the best of my ability. If there is no afterlife and all I have is what I do on earth, then I will make sure my children are capable of raising their own children to be functioning members of society. Life happens. We are living it now and we are busy pointing fingers and hurling insults at those that stay home to raise their children or those that don’t. I submit that this is a detail that doesn’t matter if the true parenting substance exists. When I was younger, my brothers and I respected the “Thus who smelt it, dealt it” rule, and I think it applies here as well, but I will reword it: “Thus who insult others for lacking, lack it.”

Thank you to my wonderful friends and their families for summarizing my thoughts on this subject. I am truly blessed to know you all!